Daughters of the Dagger 03 - Amber (18 page)

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 03 - Amber
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“Aye
, let’s do that,” said Lucas, knowing this is right where he needed to go. Sir Romney was going to be a bigger help than he knew.

They followed Sir Romney through a narrow passageway and then around
the back of the church in a dusty corridor that looked like it was never used.

“This looks like a secret passageway,” surveyed Amber. “How did you know about this?”

“Uncle Simon – I mean the archbishop showed me once when he was trying to quit the crowds and get home for dinner. This is also used as an escape route should anyone try to kill him. Ever since Thomas Beckett died here over two centuries ago, they are very careful that nothing like that ever happens again,” Sir Romney told them.

They waited in a small enclosed room at the back of the church, and to Lucas’
s surprise, he saw a small shrine attached to the room with lit candles inside it.

“What’s that?” a
sked Lucas.

“O
h, that’s another private shrine to Thomas Becket,” said Sir Romney. “It’s where the real Regale ruby - Canterbury’s prized possession is kept for safety.”

Lucas’
s heart about beat from his chest. There was only one man guarding the room and he sat on a bench and looked to be dozing off.

“So what is that shrine out in the church?”
Lucas asked. “A fake?”

“Nay, that is his real tomb,” Sir Romney explained.
“And his scalp as well as pieces of his bloodied robe and other relics are displayed for the public to see. Sometimes the people are allowed to touch or kiss them but only under supervision. The pilgrims get so desperate to take a relic home that they often try to bite off a piece when they put their lips upon it, so they need to be supervised.”

“Unbelievable that anyone would even think of trying to steal from a church,” said Amber.

“Yes, unbelievable,” echoed Lucas. “So, Sir Romney, tell us more about this ruby.”

“Well,” said the knight, “t
he Regale ruby is just too valuable to put out on display, especially when there is such a big crowd. So they keep it back here and display the fake ruby instead and only bring it out on special occasions, such as if the king were to visit. Actually, my uncle doesn’t want to even bring it out on special occasions anymore, because he said he’s had a holy vision that someone was going to try to steal it. So, having it hidden here ensures its safety, and thieves won’t know that they’ve stolen a fake instead.”

“Aye
, I can see your point,” said Lucas, his pulse racing as he realized this would be easier than he thought.

“I want to go in there and pray,” said Amber, heading over to the room.

“Here comes my uncle,” said Sir Romney. “Wait and meet him first, and I’ll get the permission for us to go in there.”

The archbishop ent
ered the room with several taper bearers and altar servers around him.

“Romney?” he said, walking forward, almost gliding across the floor. “It that really you
, nephew? I haven’t seen you in years.” He nodded to his entourage, and they headed away to the sacristy, the room adjoined to where they stood, that housed the things needed to conduct the mass.

“Uncle Simon – I mean, A
rchbishop, how are you?”

“I am well, but I
am saddened by the death of your sister Helen’s husband. May God be with him and also her in this trying time, as well as you.”

“Thank you, Uncle.”

“It seems he left the castle and his lands to the church. I’ll have to find a noble knight to give it to.”

“I’m sure you will find one,” he said with a smile and Lucas knew the knight was hoping his uncle would give it to him. He wouldn’t be surprised if that was the whole reason the man had come to Canterbury in the first place.

“Did your parents come with you as well?” asked the archbishop. “I would like to visit with your mother.”

“Nay,” he answered, “I am sorry to say your sister is not here. Or not my mother, anyway, but your other sister has arrived at Canterbury not long ago, I hear.”

“Veronica?” he asked. “I didn’t know she was back from overseas, as she hasn’t come to visit me. Please tell me she is doing better.”

“She is
not doing well,” he said. “Helen sent word in a missive that Aunt Veronica still is very saddened and has never married nor had any children. I am afraid she will die soon if she doesn’t find a reason to live.”

“I’ll come b
y in a few days and talk to her,” the archbishop told him. “Perhaps a blessing is in order to heal her heavy heart.”

“Sir Romney?” Amber interrupted in a meek voice, reminding him that she was there.

“Oh, Archbishop, I would like you to meet some friends of mine. This is Mirabelle,” he said putting his arm on the whore’s shoulder, and the bishop raised his hand and placed it on Mirabelle’s head. Her eyes were wide, wondering what was going on.

“I absolve you from your sins, my dear and I hope to see you start a new path in life,” he told her.

“That’s the second time in a matter of days I’ve been absolved from my sins,” she relayed with a smile.

“I am Sister Amber, and I am so happy to meet you.” Amber didn’t wait for her introduction
, and Lucas’s heart went out to her as she knelt on the ground in front of the man, reaching out and kissing the ring on his hand.

“Bless you, dear
,” he said, “but please stand. As I am only a vassal of God and not the deity Himself.”

She stood quickly, her smile bigger than Lucas had ever seen.

“If you are a nun, where is your habit?” the archbishop asked curiously.

“She is a novice,
and her clothes became ruined on the trip here,” Lucas answered for her before she started telling the man what really happened.

“And you are the man who saved me from tripping on that child in the vestibule before mass,” the holy man said, nodding toward Lucas. “What is your n
ame, as I will have to reward you kindly.”

“No reward necessary,” Lucas said, looking down to the ground and not wanting to tell the man his name.

“His name is Lucas,” Amber answered for him, repaying the favor he’d just done by answering for her, he supposed.

“Lucas,” he said, “you seem familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?”

“He was raised by Father Armand as a monk at St. Ermengild’s in Bowerwood,” Amber blurted out before he could stop her.

“Father Armand,” he said, with a nod. “Yes, I know the man well.”

Lucas doubted that he knew him well, as he was sure he knew nothing of Father Armand’s ways or he would have him hanged for sure.

“Are you a monk then in a civilian’s clothing as well?” he asked.

“Nay,” answered Lucas.

“A knight then, perhaps? As you were so valiant and honorable the way you acted in the vestibule.”

“Nay, I am not that either,” he told him.

“Well, then mayhap you should be knighted, and soon. I will see
to it personally, as you are the perfect example of what a knight should be, Sir Lucas.”

Lucas looked over to the room with the ruby, knowing
that having a title bestowed upon him by the archbishop was an honor, but being a landless knight without a castle wasn’t what he wanted. He felt like the devil for even thinking of what he was about to do. He knew it was going to be the least honorable thing that no true knight would ever consider doing in a million years.

“Just call me Sir Lucifer,” he said, knowing that today was the day he would
truly earn his title of the devil.

Chapter 16

Lucas waited patiently for Amber to finish praying in the secret shrine, as he paced back and forth, making small talk with the guard outside the door. The archbishop and his entourage had left, and he’d already sent Sir Romney and Mirabelle to collect their horses. He had a short window of opportunity to steal the ruby before they returned. He’d never be able to accomplish the feat with her in there. He also had to think of a way to distract the guard.

“Amber, darling,” he called to her. “Are you finished praying yet, as we need to get going?”

She looked over her shoulder, then blessed herself quickly and hurried over to where he stood with the guard.

“That was amazing,” she said to Lucas. “Especially the ruby.”

“That ruby was sent from France as a present to England by King Louis VII,” relayed the guard.

Lucas suddenly had an idea and hoped Amber’s ability to chat would work into his plans.

“Sister Amber here knows a little about gemstones,” he told the guard, “as she and her sisters at one time all had jeweled daggers.”

“H
ow nice,” said the guard not at all interested.

“Tell him about it, Amber.”

She took the bait and started telling the man the whole dagger story involving her mother. He gave a blank stare and just nodded with boredom and Lucas knew this was his opportunity. He slipped away into the shrine and pretended he was praying. Actually, he was eyeing up the ruby that was displayed on a pedestal atop the dais, surrounded by statues and candles, just out of arm’s reach. If he stood atop the dais, he could reach it with no problem.

He quickly looked back over his shoulder, hearing Amber rattling on.
The guard was watching her instead of him, and his back was partially toward Lucas.

He quickly stepped up onto the dais and reached up toward the ruby, his fingers just skimming the surface of it. Then, stretching just a bit more, he curved his f
ingers around it, knowing that Canterbury Castle was as good as his right now.

“Lucas?” Amber walked into the room, and he had no choice but to release it. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m just … trying to receive a blessing by holding my hand in front of the ruby, that’s all,” he lied.

“Well, come on, as Mirabelle just came in and said Sir Romney has the horses and is in a hurry to get to the castle to see his sister.

Damn. He was so close. He stepped down from the dais defeated, taking one last look at the biggest ruby he’d ever seen
in his life glittering in the candlelight of the room, teasing him, mocking him, making him want to scream.

He turned to find Mirabelle
giggling, talking with the guard, keeping his attention. He should have used her instead for the distraction and that ruby would be in his pouch now instead of taunting him from atop the pedestal.

“What’s the matter?” asked Amber. “You look as if you have
just lost your best friend.”

He glanced back at the ruby as they exited the room. Aye, he felt as if he’d not only lost his best friend but his best and only chance of ever having a castle to call his own.

 

*

 

Amber was in awe as they rode over the drawbridge of Canterbury Castle right behind Sir Romney with Mirabelle clinging to
the back of him.

She rode in front of Lucas
, and one of his arms was wrapped around her while he held the reins in his other hand. She admired him for always putting her in front and allowing her to sit on the saddle, instead of behind him the way Mirabelle had to sit when riding with Sir Romney. Lucas had been acting more like a knight lately too, she realized, ever since studying the Code of Conduct. Mayhap there was hope for him yet. He seemed to be changing, and acted more chivalric than the devil of a man she’d first met in Bowerwood.

She found herself
thinking about her sisters lately and how happy they were now that they were married. And though she was happy being a nun, she wondered what it would be like to spend her life married to someone like Lucas. She only wished her sisters were here now so she could confide in them about how she was feeling.

“This castle is huge,” commented Mirabelle
.

Amber agreed.
“Even my father’s castle is not this large, and he is an earl.”

“I told you, this is Canterbury and where the archbishop lives,” explained Lucas. “This
is a very wealthy area.”

The castle towered over them, bathed in a golden hue from the morning sun. Four round turrets made up the corners, and in the center was t
he square keep. Atop the battlements were crenallations, rectangle openings atop the parapet in which arrows could be shot from toward an attacker. Long amber colored banners fluttered in the breeze with the heraldry of an orange rampant lion upon them. There were several black banners as well, depicting that the lord had died and they were in mourning. A moat surrounded the castle and ducks floated atop the dirty water, calling out to each other as they swam. Amber took that to be a good omen.

“Are those
banners black because of the death of the lord of the castle?” asked Mirabelle.

“Aye, they are still in mo
urning over the death of my brother-by-marriage, as his accident happened not long ago.” Sir Romney spoke as they rode through the gates and into the courtyard.

“What happened t
o him?” asked Amber curiously.

“He had an accident while practicing the joust,” said the knight. “His horse lost its footing and he was thrown and hit his head. My sister is so distraught that I thought my being here might help her recover.”

“So what will happen to the castle?” asked Lucas.


Well, like the archbishop told us, it was left to the church, as they were newly married and hadn’t yet the chance to have heirs.” Sir Romney dismounted as soon as they entered the courtyard, and a herald with a straight trumpet blurted out a few notes to announce them.

“Sir
Romney and … ” the herald looked at the whore and raised an eyebrow.

“And friends,”
said the knight, with a wave of his hand to include all of them.

“And friends,” finished the man and once again raised the horn to his mouth. Sir Romney’s hand reached up and stopped him. “That’s enough,” he said.

“Brother, you are finally here!” A young woman ran out of the keep with her handmaid right behind her. She had dark hair coiled atop her head and wore a black mourning gown with a veil to match. Amber thought she looked similar to a nun in this attire.

The young woman
threw herself into Sir Romney’s arms and started crying.

“Helen,” he said, “
I am here now. You needn’t cry, though I feel your pain. I know you are distraught over your husband’s death and I pine for you. But I have brought guests with me that you need to greet.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes o
n the long tippet of her sleeve. “I would like to meet them.”

“This is Sir Lucas,” he said, nodding toward them, and surprising Amber by using the fake title.

“Pleased to meet you Lady Helen.” Lucas got off the horse quickly and rushed over to kiss her on the hand.

It was an innocent and required act, but for some reason it still bothered Amber.

“I am Amber,” she introduced herself, wasting no time in dismounting the horse.


Sister
Amber,” Lucas pointed out, and she almost wished he hadn’t called her that in front of everyone. It was odd to be thinking this way, but since she’d been wearing her velvet gown instead of her black robes and veil, she had started to feel like she was back living at home. A lady of a castle. A woman of wealth to be respected by titled men. She’d been getting too used to it, and knew she had to remember who she really was now.

“Yes,
Sister
Amber,” she repeated, more for her own benefit to remind herself she needed to start thinking and acting like a nun again. She let out a deep sigh and Lucas looked over to her and smiled.

“Why aren’t you wearing
the required robe and wimple of the Order?” asked Helen.

“Yes, Lucas,” Amber said looking at him. “
Would you care to explain?”

“Because she
is only a novice,” he told her.

She nodded
, knowing he wouldn’t say what happened to her clothes.

“And she prefers to act like a lady instead of a nun.”

“That’s not true,” she said, giving Lucas a daggered glance.

“And who is that atop your horse?” asked the girl
, perusing Mirabelle.

“Oh,” said Sir Romney, “no one. She is just a –”

“She is a traveling companion of ours,” broke in Amber, not wanting the man to call her a whore in front of everyone. “Her name is Mirabelle. Lady Mirabelle,” she said, glancing over to Lucas who was opening his mouth to most likely object. “Isn’t that right,
Sir
Lucas?” Lucas shut his mouth and Romney didn’t dare say a word. Mirabelle smiled back at Amber and gave a small nod of thanks.

Lucas leaned over and spoke to her in a low voice. “I’m just pointing it out, but I believe that is called a lie. Not an admirable trait of a nun the last time I checked.”

“It’s also number eight in the knight’s Code of Conduct,” she pointed out to him in return.

“Number seven,” he said, talking to her out of the side of his mouth.

“Eight. I copied the parchment, I’d know. Seven is not to steal.” His head turned sideways and his eyes opened wide, but he didn’t say a word. That shut him up for some reason.

However,
Amber knew he was right when he said she wasn’t acting like a nun, and found herself wondering how that lie sprang so easily from her lips and she felt no remorse for saying it. But she wanted to make Mirabelle feel welcome here. She liked her and considered her a friend and only did it to make her feel better about herself and save her from embarrassment. Still, she did lie and knew she would have to confess it soon.

“How is Aunt
Veronica?” Romney asked his sister.

“No better,” she said sullenly. “Her state of sadness has gotten worse over the years. And she spends too much time crying.
I am just glad she has come back from overseas, as now we can watch over her.”

“Oh, my, what is wrong with her?” asked Amber. “Perhaps I can console her and pray
with her in her time of grief.”

“She still suffers from the fact that she lost both her husband and her newborn baby years ago. She never remarried or had more children,” said
Sir Romney.

“Yes,” agreed Helen.
“She just can’t seem to overcome it.”

“Then bring me to her,” said Amber, picking up her skirts and heading toward the keep.
“I am trained to help people in need.” She stopped and turned back. “Perhaps you can join us in prayer for your late husband, Helen.”

“I would like that
very much,” she said, then looked up to Mirabelle. “Would you like to join us in prayer, Lady Mirabelle?”

“Me?” Mirabelle slid off he horse. “No, I think I had enough prayer
s for one day. I was hoping to take a walk around the castle.” She looked over the courtyard and up toward the battlements. “Where is your garrison?”

“You’ll stay with me and not go near the soldiers,” said
Sir Romney. Amber almost laughed at his possessiveness over her.

“Sir Lucas?” Amber
called out. “I am sure you’d want to join us, as you were trained in helping those in need as well.”

“Aye
, that is a trait of a knight,” agreed Sir Romney.

“Or a monk,” she added.

“Enough with the talk,” Lucas grumbled. “Fine, I’ll go, but just for a short visit, as I have a lot to do.”

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 03 - Amber
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